Authors can bring both fiction and non-fiction books to life for young people. Every year, schools around the world invite authors and illustrators into their libraries and classrooms to present special programs. These powerful book-based events can foster a greater love of reading and the writing process for students, as well as a deeper understanding of the world around them.
An author of children’s fiction for Disney Hyperion and a former classroom teacher, I care deeply about connecting young people to STEM and the environment. A few years ago I joined a remarkable group called Authors for Earth Day that offers an exciting opportunity for kids to learn more about conservation issues.
Authors for Earth Day (A4ED) is a grassroots coalition of award-winning children’s authors who hope to make children more aware of environmental issues. Over 70 authors and illustrators in all genres of children’s literature are a part of this program. Each participant performs a school visit near or on Earth Day with a unique twist: the author donates at least 50% of that day’s speaking fee to a non-profit environmental charity as directed by a student vote. In advance of the visit, students research five conservation organizations nominated by their author. Then the students vote for their favorite and the author writes a check to the winning charity.
This means students learn about a variety of conservation organizations, and they learn that their vote can make a difference!

Here I am with the enthusiastic student heads of Greenhill’s Ecology Club.
I have performed two such visits now, one at the Greenhill School in Dallas and one at the University School in Cleveland, and I believe both were rewarding for everyone involved. At the Greenhill School, I presented to several grades. We discussed my writing process and the marine biology and ocean issues highlighted in my Neptune books. The students voted to donate half of my honorarium to the White Rock Lake Conservancy, an organization that supports one of the prettiest and most heavily utilized parks in Dallas.
I also had a wonderful (and very snowy) Authors for Earth Day visit at The University School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. After researching the five charities I nominated that included two local conservation organizations, the students voted to donate half of my day’s honorarium to the Ocean Conservancy. That day I taught writing workshops and discussed how I researched and wrote my Neptune books. I understand the boys at US are still very proud of their involvement in this donation!
We probably would all agree that our generation has created some huge problems for our planet, and it will be up to bright students like these to solve them. Even elementary age children can understand the sobering environmental challenges facing our world and learn about organizations that are trying to develop effective solutions.
Please spread the word. Authors for Earth Day has dozens of passionate authors and illustrators ready and waiting who would love to visit a school near you next April!
Note: Polly Holyoke is the author of The Neptune Project which was recommended as a good science based read for kids by the AAAS, a Bluebonnet Master List selection, and the winner of the Sunshine State Young Readers Award. A Plano resident, she is always looking for schools to partner with around Earth Day to participate in this program. If you are interested in hosting her, please contact her at pbholyoke@gmail.com. If you are interested in booking one of the other wonderful authors at Authors For Earth Day, or you would like to learn more about how the program works, you can go directly to the organization’s website: www.authorsforearthday.org.

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Dr. Koshi Dhingra has dedicated her career to STEM education and is passionate about having every child live up to their potential. Seeing a lack of girls and other underrepresented youth in STEM programs, she founded talkSTEM in 2015 to address the imbalance. She has a doctorate in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University, has years of experience teaching in graduate and undergraduate programs, and has held leadership roles in universities. She advises and collaborates with a broad range of educational institutions globally. Dr. Dhingra began her career teaching science in middle and high school in New York. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, three children, and two dogs.


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